Susan tried to ignore the constant beeping on the television. It started during the morning news and continued through getting Bob off to work and the kids to school. Now, she was trying to figure out whether to stay glued to the television or put in a tape and do her Jazzercise.
The beeping continued. The scroll across the screen read, “Danger level Red, be prepared to take cover.”
“That’s the second time this month.” Susan picked up the cat and stroked it’s long fur. “You seem a little skittish today.” She had already spoken to her mother, her sister, and her friend Beth. Paranoia incorporated is how I ought to answer the phone. She went into her kitchen and pushed a button on the master phone. All of the calls would now be forwarded to the answering machine. “Time for exercise.” She dropped the cat and skipped into the living room while she swung her arms. “Warm up, warm up.”
The tape hummed and the first song belted out from the speakers. A skinny twenty-something woman began dancing on a stage, and as the camera pulled back Susan could see the collection of overweight women trying to imitate the instructor.
She pushed back the chairs and coffee table, and then began to follow along with the music. She had exercised about fifteen minutes when her doorbell chimed. “Sheesh, now what?” Susan turned down the television and trotted to the front door.
Through the glass side panels Susan could see the worried look of Mrs. Shultz, her elderly neighbor. A gentle rain was beginning to fall.
“Mrs. Shultz, what brings you by this morning?” She’s got a suitcase; maybe she’s leaving town.
The older woman was pulling a large suitcase with one hand and holding on to her cane with the other. “Susan, I just wondered if I could sit in your basement for awhile. The news is so disturbing.”
“Well, sure Mrs. Shultz, but I think it’s just some more of the same. Come on in. Can I get you anything?” Susan and Bob’s house was built into a hillside and had a large basement, which Bob had finished into a spare bedroom and recreation room. Often neighbors gathered there during bad storms. “Be like the last tornado party. I’ve got coffee on, I’ll bring you some.”
“You’re such a dear.” Mrs. Shultz pulled her suitcase to the basement stairs. “Would it be okay to leave my suitcase here?” she called from the hallway.
“Sure, no problem.” Susan’s voice was almost drowned out by the sirens.
Minutes later Susan carried a tray of coffee cups and pound cake down to the basement family room. Mrs. Shultz had already turned on the tiny television set.
“They just said that there were two nuclear devices found, but they think there are more.”
Susan set the coffee on the counter next to the television. “You don’t say.”
“See, one was at the entrance to the Air Force Base.” Mrs. Shultz pointed at the screen.
There was a noticeable sound like a “blink.” The television screen suddenly went blank. A spit second later Susan was thrust into Mrs. Shultz. Debris from the house covered the two women. Susan opened her eyes and tried to focus on her surroundings. She noticed water accumulating on the floor. Mrs. Shultz was moaning.
Susan worked to push a hole in the piled up wood and cement. Apparently, the counter, which Bob made out of an old hardware store cabinet, served as a barrier to the falling first floor.
“Mrs. Shultz, are you okay?”
She helped the older woman sit up.
Susan looked out from the hole she had made. “I don’t know.” She widened the hole so she might crawl out. “Oh, my. Dear Lord. Why?” Part of one wall was gone and Susan could look out on the landscape. There were no trees, and no buildings; just an occasional fire in piles of rubbish.
Her mind tried to form logic. Bob always handles everything. The kids are miles away in a brick school building.
Gentle rain began to fall again. Susan ducked her head back into the cubbyhole. The rain was making funny sizzling noises as it struck the earth.
“I think we’re stuck here for awhile.” Lord, I commend our souls to you.
Mrs. Shultz pushed on her glasses. “What’s it like out there?”
Susan gulped and tried to hold back tears. “It’s calm.”
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